Peter Bjorn and John Living Thing

Peter Bjorn and John Living Thing
How do you overcome the weighty obstacle of having an unexpected international hit? Well, if you're Peter Bjorn and John, you simply ignore it completely. With their follow-up to the enormously successful third album, Writer's Block, the famed Swedish trio indeed look back - to the '80s, that is. With little interest in making another "Young Folks," PB&J actually pack more hooks into Living Thing than any of their previous albums, it's just the melodies are embedded into darker, more varied song styles. With Peter Moren's knack for crooning pensive hooks, the band haven't lost their spark for crafting memorable pop music, but things seem different. Both "Stay This Way" and "Nothing To Worry About," with its child-sung chorus, could be mistaken for hip-hop productions, while the title track shamelessly borrows Graceland's African-isms. But the most prominent influence is new wave, and arguably even their future tour-mates Depeche Mode, whose industrial percussion and brooding synth work provide the foundation for "Just the Past" and torch song "Last Night." While it all sounds so wishy-washy, Living Thing is more lucid than its predecessor and a thoroughly rewarding record by a group who'd rather test the limits of pop than just whistle it. (Almost Gold/Red Ink)